Yesterday we took a look at five hitters heading into their contract years, and today we’ll cover the guys on the mound. Remember, this is completely subjective on my part. I’m not really sure there would be another way to go about doing this.
It would be tough for Wilson to top what he did in 2010, when he transitioned from a career reliever to the rotation and put up a 4.4 WAR season. Including the playoffs, he threw 228.1 IP last year, almost the exact same number of innings he threw in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 combined. Wilson steps to the front of the rotation now that Cliff Lee is in Philadelphia and just at the right time; he just turned 30 and is going to hit the open market in about 11 months. Another low-3.00 ERA could in the cards, especially since his ground ball rate is very strong (no worse than 49.2% since 2006) in a hitter friendly park.
It’s hard to believe that Jackson didn’t turn 27 until September. He’s played on four teams in the last three years and 2010 was the best season of his career if you look at the peripherals and not his ERA. Jackson struck out a career high 7.78 men per nine and walked just 3.18 per nine unintentionally, and his ground ball rate jumped up to 49.4%. That last part could have to do with his changeup, which he threw 13.4% of the time last season after using it around 7% of the time in 2008 and 2009. The Cell will be an obstacle to overcome, but the grounders will help. The free agent pitching market is barren next winter, so Jackson could set himself up for a very nice pay day with a strong season.
We’re bending the rules a little bit here because the Cardinals hold a $15M option for Carpenter’s services for 2012, so they’re going to be the ones to decide if he hits the market next winter. That said, their focus is going to be on re-signing Albert Pujols for all eternity and every little bit of savings helps, so a down year by the soon-to-be 36-year-old Carpenter could have him looking for a job at the wrong time. He’s been both healthy (427.2 IP) and outstanding (3.28 FIP) since missing just about all of the 2008 season with Tommy John surgery, a performance well worth his salary. If St. Louis falls out of the race in the NL Central, I don’t think it would be a total shock he wound up getting traded at the deadline.
Last season was a tale of two Broxton’s. He was his usual dominant self through the first three months of the season (32.2 IP, 5 BB, 59 K, 0.48 ERA), but it all went downhill after a 48-pitch outing against the Yankees on June 26th. From that point on, Broxton walked nearly as many batters as he struck out (25 K, 23 BB) in 29.2 IP, blowing five of 11 save opportunities. By the end of the season, he was pitching the seven inning while Kenley Jansen and Hong-Chih Kuo got the end-game glory. New manager Don Mattingly has indicated that Broxton will be his closer at the start of the year, and a return to his 2006-2009 form would do him well before free agency. He’s still just 26, so if he hits the open market after another 2+ WAR season as closer, holy cow would he get paid.
Unlike Broxton, Papelbon never lost his job last season even though he always seemed to be one pitch away from disaster. Now he’s got both Daniel Bard and Bobby Jenks looking over his shoulder, and all winter we’ve heard rumors of the Sox entertaining trade offers for their closer. The peripherals are still strong, although declines in his walk rate, homer rate, and WHIP are a concern. Papelbon’s still a fantastic reliever, but getting back to the ~2.00 ERA guy would do wonders for him in free agency.
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